You cannot deliberately hit a pickleball with your hand, except if the ball hits your paddle hand below the wrist while you are holding the paddle, in which case it is legal and the ball remains in play.
Hitting the ball with any other part of your body is a fault. However, you should avoid intentionally hitting the ball with your hand below the wrist, as it is difficult to generate power and control the shot.
- What are the Official Hand Hitting Rules in Pickleball?
- Major Pickleball Tournament Rules on Hand Hits
- Common Pickleball Tournament Hand Hit Controversies
- Best Practices for Legally Playing Close to Non-Volley Zone
- Perspectives on Whether Hand Hits Should be Allowed
- FAQs: Pickleball Hand Hits
- Conclusion: Focus on Technical Paddle Play
What are the Official Hand Hitting Rules in Pickleball?
USA Pickleball, the national governing body for the sport in the United States, provides specific guidance regarding hand hits in the Official Tournament Rulebook:
- Players may not intentionally strike the ball with the hand or arm.
- If the ball strikes a player’s hand or arm that is in contact with the paddle below the wrist, it is considered part of the paddle and is a legal hit.
- If the ball brushes against the hand or arm at the non-volley zone line during a volley exchange, it is also legal and play continues.
- Any other hand or arm contact below the shoulder is a fault and results in the opponent winning the rally.
The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) has adopted these same rules worldwide. So standard competitive play does not allow purposefully hitting the ball with the hand or arm.
Why is Deliberate Hand Hitting Prohibited?
Hand hits are restricted because they make the game unfair and eliminate the need for paddles and pickleball technique:
- Lack of control – Unlike a paddle strike, hand hits provide very little control over ball direction and spin. This results in unpredictable play.
- No skill required – Deliberate hand strikes rely solely on athleticism rather than cultivated technique. This undermines many intricacies of the sport.
- Safety issues – Being struck by a fast-moving pickleball can injure a player’s unprotected hand and arm. Paddle play helps prevent this.
- Altered playstyle – Permitting hand strikes would change competitive pickleball as players lob balls instead of rallying. This deviates from the intended game flow.
What is Considered the Paddle and Hand Contact Area?
The hand contact area considered an extension of the paddle represents the portion of the player’s hand wrapped around the paddle handle up to the wrist. This includes the palm, fingers, back of hand, and lower thumb.
Any ball strike within this hand-paddle region is legal since the player legitimately grips the paddle. But intentional hand hits above the wrist or not involving an actual held paddle are faults.
Can Incidental Hand Touches Lead to Faults?
During quick exchanges near the non-volley zone line, the ball may inadvertently brush against a player’s hand or arm. If these contacts happen during active point play as the player reaches over the line in an attempt to hit a volley, it is not a fault.
This allowance provides some leeway for unintentional or reactively unavoidable hand touches due to the speed of close-range volleys. However, players cannot intentionally exploit this exception as a loophole to hit hand shots without penalty.
Major Pickleball Tournament Rules on Hand Hits
Premier pickleball tournaments enforce strict no-hand-hit rules to uphold fair play and the paddle focus of the sport.
USA Pickleball National Championships
The preeminent National Championships hosted by USA Pickleball make no allowances for hand hits outside of the hand-paddle contact area. Intentionally striking the ball with the hand or arm above the wrist results in a fault and ends the rally.
Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships
At the prominent Margaritaville USA National Championship tournaments, players cannot hit hand shots deliberately. Incidental brushes during rapid exchanges at the non-volley zone line are permitted based on the discretion of the referees.
Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) Tour
The professional Association of Pickleball Professionals tours and major circuit events prohibit purposeful hand hits and strictly enforce the fault rule. These elite competitions highlight paddle skills rather than athletic hand-eye coordination.
Common Pickleball Tournament Hand Hit Controversies
Even with clearly defined hand hit rules, players still launch protests and complaints when hand contact leads to called faults at tournaments. Several scenarios frequently spark debates and arguments around hand hits.
Intentional Hand Strikes
Many controversies erupt when players intentionally direct or control the ball by striking it with the hand or arm. This violating move provides an advantage and goes against the ethics of pickleball, so opponents rightfully protest the illegal hit.
Hand Below Paddle Underhand Hits
Players sometimes grip the paddle with one hand only and use the other hand underneath to redirect the ball. Despite contact with the paddle, these underhand “hand paddle” hits violate the intention of legal hand hits.
Fist or Open Hand Below Wrist
Hits where the player makes a fist or open hand below the wrist still get called as faults by strict referees. But some players argue this should be allowed since the contact point is below the wrist. There is ambiguity around these hits.
Ball Deflections Off Hand Near Non-Volley Zone
When the ball deflects off a player’s hand hovering near the non-volley zone line, opponents often demand a fault while the player insists it was incidental contact allowable under the rules. Referees must then make a judgement call on these plays.
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Best Practices for Legally Playing Close to Non-Volley Zone
To avoid hand hit disputes when volleying near the non-volley zone, follow these recommendations:
- Keep the paddle hand clearly separated from the free hand. Do not overlap hands.
- For quick reactions, press the free hand against your body rather than reaching out.
- Do not make a fist, open hand, or weird shape with the free hand near the line.
- Call your own hand faults if the ball clearly redirects off your hand or arm.
- Ask for a “let” rather than a fault if accidental hand contact occurs.
- Never intentionally exploit the non-volley zone exception to hit illegal hand shots.
These tips will help you legally volley near the line without hand controversy.
Perspectives on Whether Hand Hits Should be Allowed
The no-hand-hit rule elicits impassioned reactions across the pickleball community. Players, organizers, fans, and analysts hold strong views on both sides of this debate.
Arguments for Allowing Hand Hits
Proponents who believe hand strikes should be permitted assert the following:
- Hand-eye coordination is a skill – Rewarding athletic players raises competition.
- Hand hits add excitement – Crowds love spectacular hand shots.
- Less disputes – Removing the rule eliminates hand fault arguments.
- Safety precaution – Players may protect themselves by hand hitting dangerous shots.
- More options – Hand hits expand shot choices and diversity of play.
Arguments Against Allowing Hand Hits
Opponents who believe hand hits should remain illegal counter:
- Violates tradition – Hand hits stray from pickleball’s core as a paddle sport.
- Unnecessary injury risk – Fast balls can harm unprotected hands.
- Eliminates paddle skills – Allows any athlete to play without technical development.
- Alters tactics – Leads to hand lobs rather than paddle rallies.
- Hard to referee – Impossible to judge intention on hand contacts.
Potential Outcomes if Hand Hits Become Legal
If pickleball governing bodies changed the hand hit rule, several consequences could result:
- Surge in hand hits – Players would frequently strike shots with hands.
- Rise of underhand hits – Underhand hand redirects would become commonplace.
- Changes in paddle design – Smaller paddles optimized for lobs rather than rallies.
- New grip techniques – Grips allowing players to ditch paddles and hand strike easily.
- Unknown safety impacts – Potential hand injuries from high-speed pickleballs.
- Unpredictable effects on gameplay – Dramatic transformations of strategies and dynamics.
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FAQs: Pickleball Hand Hits
Here are answers to frequent questions about pickleball hand hits:
Can you hit the pickleball with your hand?
No, players cannot intentionally strike the ball with the hand or arm under official rules. The only legal hand contact is below the wrist when holding the paddle.
What happens if you hit the ball with your hand in pickleball?
Deliberately hitting a hand shot above the wrist results in loss of serve or point as a fault. At the non-volley zone line, incidental hand brushes may be allowed during quick volley exchanges.
Why is hitting with your hand illegal in pickleball?
Hand hits are prohibited because they require no skill, raise injury risks from fast balls, and conflict with pickleball’s nature as a paddle sport focused on technique.
Can you use your hand if it is part of your paddle follow through?
No, using your hand after a paddle follow through is an illegal hit. Only hand contact below the wrist while holding the paddle is permitted.
Is it OK if the ball hits your hand when volleying at the kitchen line?
Typically yes, if the hand contact near the non-volley zone line happens reactively during an exchange and does not deliberately propel the ball. But refs can still call faults in ambiguous cases.
What are the key criteria for determining illegal hand hits?
The main factors are intentionality, control over ball trajectory, and location of contact above the wrist and separate from the paddle. These distinguish illegal maneuvers from incidental contacts.
How do tournament officials enforce the hand hit rule?
Referees watch closely for players deliberately guiding the ball with the hand or arm, relying on their judgement. Players also call hand faults on opponents when observed.
Should pickleball allow hand hits or keep them illegal?
Perspectives differ, but most players oppose legalizing hand hits to preserve pickleball as a paddle sport focused on skillful strokes and strategies rather than raw athletic ability.
What are the best strategies for legally playing near the non-volley zone line?
Keep the paddle hand isolated, avoid reaching out the other hand, call your own hand faults, and ask for lets rather than faults on accidental contacts. Take care not to exploit the exception.
Conclusion: Focus on Technical Paddle Play
As pickleball’s popularity skyrockets, hand hit controversies will continue happening, whether in backyard games or primetime tournament finals. But deliberate hand strikes violate the spirit and tradition of this paddle sport.
Rather than lobbying to hit pickleballs like tennis pros poach smashes in the air, embrace pickleball’s uniqueness. Develop an arsenal of paddle shots – dinks, drives, drops, blocks, lobs. Master spin. Anticipate opponent returns. Refine strategies. Hone your technical skills rather than demanding leeway to hit with your hand.
Expert players win by paddle prowess, finesse, and smarts. Although hand-eye ability factors into pickleball success, elite champions triumph through cultivated paddle technique, not raw athleticism. Keep your hand hits limited to below-the-wrist paddle holds. You’ll improve far more by practicing paddle strokes than begging for legal hand hits.
Pickleball ismutable, but must remain rooted in paddle play. So watch those hand contacts near the non-volley zone, and keep working on your paddle power, control, and placements. Your dedication to honing paddle skills will be rewarded, even if tempting hand hit opportunities arise. Stay focused, keep rallying